Trans-Siberian Orchestra fires up a holiday treat at PPG Paints Arena
December 27, 2016 8:02 PM
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Joel Hoekstra at the PPG Paints Arena in Uptown on Tuesday.
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra performs at the PPG Paints Arena in Uptown on Tuesday.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra violinist Roddy Chong performs at the PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday.
By Scott Mervis / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The annual visit from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra gave post-holiday revelers the yin and yang and the fire and ice Tuesday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena.
It was more or less an encore of last year with the heavy metal minstrels shelving the once-standard “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” to party like it’s 1999 with “Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” based on the Fox TV special from that year.
The East Coast touring unit of the TSO looked like a team of superhumans dropped on a high-tech, tricked-out stage to offer the most testosterone-fueled Christmas music on the planet. The focal point is the tandem of blazing blondes -- guitarists Chris Caffrey (Savatage) and Joel Hoekstra, a smiling ringer from Night Ranger and Whitesnake who would also fit right in with Hans Gruber’s crew in “Die Hard.” They are guitar-store cowboys, laying down scorching licks a la Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen,
Just about everyone on stage has long flowing hair that they flip around, none better than the five powerful female singer/dancers who clearly spend the rest of the year at the gym.
The “Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” as told by booming narrator Bryan Hicks and seen in the smashing five-panel screen, is a slight but dramatic tale of a runaway teenager (he calls her “a small child”) who winds up in an old vaudeville theater where caretaker Ossie Davis shows her the light and directs her home toward her holiday dreams. The songs don’t match up much with the story line -- which might be a good thing -- but they do carry the mood properly.
The production incorporates TSO favorites "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" (a metallic blend of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Carol of the Bells") and “Christmas Canon Rock” along with bluesy Broadway-meets-metal power ballads “Music Box Blues,” “Promises to Keep” and “This Christmas Day,” which Russell Allen turned into a sort of Neil Diamond number on steroids. Rob Evan, with a pure vocal, was stunning as usual on a “What Child Is This?” that came to a soaring finish.
The production crew gave us eye-popping video, snow accumulations, fire pods and shooting sparks into which they could stick their guitars.
It was still more the yin and the ice compared to the fiery second half which meshed classical and hard rock with a smaller helping of holiday cheer. Stepping away from Christmas into dungeons and dragons territory was the TSO’s thunderous “The Mountain” and Carl Orff’s chilling “O Fortuna,” firing up the stage like a Slayer concert.
The vocal highlights included Allen doing Tom Waits on “Christmas Nights in Blue” and Benatar-style belter Kayla Reeves rocking out on “Someday” and “The Night Conceives.”
Hoekstra led the way through a Tchaikovsky-inspired “A Mad Russian's Christmas,” while acrobatic violinist “Rowdy” Roddy Chong powered a dizzying “A Last Illusion” riding “Flight of the Bumblebee and “Ode to Joy.” “Wizards of Winter,” one of TSO’s calling cards, was a dazzler that could have come with a seizure warning, and it all came to a pyromaniac’s dream finish with two stages blazing for a reprise of “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24).”
Once again, TSO mastermind Paul O’Neill gave fans their money’s worth in flawless special effects and squealing notes, but next December, it should be time to put the “Ghosts” to rest.
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg
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